Lucifer's Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry

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Oxford University Press, 2000 - Science - 259 pages
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For many centuries, scientists have investigated the "fearful symmetry" that seemed to underlie the Universe. But increasingly, it looks as though life is the result of cosmic asymmetry, and scientists are now preparing to uncover the asymmetries at the heart of the Big Bang.
As we begin a new millennium, it becomes clearer that true understanding of our Universe will come only from identifying and understanding the asymmetries that surround us. While modern scientific theory describes a uniformly perfect and symmetrical creation, we know that were that so, matter would have been destroyed within an instant of its appearance and nothing that we now know could ever have happened. Not only cosmic life but our own everyday variety is full of other examples of asymmetry, from the human body to the molecules of life. In Lucifer's Legacy, physicist Frank Close explores the origins of asymmetry from the molecular level to the Universe at large, and asks whether this multitude of examples can be traced back to a single event that took place at the origin of our Universe. Inspired by a chance encounter with a statue of Lucifer in the Tuillerie gardens in Paris, Close takes the reader on a sweeping tour of asymmetry in the world around us, from the development of human embryos to the mysterious Higgs boson. His tour culminates in the research now underway at CERN to recreate the Big Bang in Switzerland in 2005 and thus to solve this mystery of the original asymmetry.
Vividly and engagingly written, Lucifer's Legacy reveals that whenever asymmetry occurs in Nature, it points towards deeper truths.

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Symmetry at large
Through the looking glass

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About the author (2000)

Frank Close is a well-known scientist and broadcaster. A particle physicist by training, he is currently based at CERN, Switzerland. In March 2000, he will assume a professorship in physics at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is the author of several books, including The Cosmic Onion.

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